US extends Iran nuclear sanctions relief but introduces new sanctions

By bne IntelliNews May 17, 2017

The Trump administration on May 17 announced it would continue with Obama-era waivers on sanctions linked to Iran’s nuclear programme.

However, taking something of a carrot and stick approach, it simultaneously imposed new measures aimed at punishing Tehran for its ballistic missile development programme, human rights record and support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Washington has remained silent on the Iranian presidential election campaign which will culminate with a vote on May 19. The dual announcement of the sanction waivers and new measures could conceivably have some impact on voting intentions. Some foreign investors, such as French oil major Total, have previously said they were waiting to see whether the waiver extensions would be granted before making decisions on multi-billion-dollar investments in Iran.

The notification of the retention of the waivers follows an April finding by Washington that Iran is complying with its side of the November 2015 nuclear deal – described by Donald Trump as “the worst deal ever” during his election campaign last year – which eased sanctions against the Islamic Republic in return for a curbing of activities which the major powers claimed could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.

The newly announced American measures  which are not related to the nuclear deal have been directed at seven people said to be linked to Iran’s ballistic missile programme, including two senior defence officials and a China-based network that allegedly supports Iran’s military.

“This administration is committed to countering Iran’s destabilising behaviour, such as Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and support to the Assad regime,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. He added: “It is alarming that individuals involved with Iran’s missile programme are assisting the brutal Assad regime, and we are taking action to curtail this behaviour.”

The US is continuing to review whether it should continue honouring the nuclear deal.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones said in a statement. “Above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

The US State Department also released a report on cited Iranian human rights violations required by Congress every six months. The report states Iran continues to execute children convicted of crimes, inflict torture and detain people arbitrarily.

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